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Poll: Fewer opportunities seen for minority kids

Ileana Morales

WASHINGTON – Minority children have fewer opportunities than their white peers to gain access to high-quality health care, education, safe neighborhoods and adequate support from the communities where they live, according to a nationwide survey of professionals who work with young people.

Of the professionals surveyed, 59 percent said young white children in their communities have “lots of opportunity” to play in violence-free homes and neighborhoods, while only 36 percent said the same about Hispanic children, 37 percent about African American children and 42 percent about Native American children.

The survey refers to young children as within the 0-8 age range.

Fifty-five percent of respondents viewed young white children as having good access to high-quality health care, while 41 percent said the same of Hispanic, Arab American and American Indian/Alaska Native children and 45 percent said the same for African American and Asian American/Pacific Islander children.

The survey shows that children of all ages from low-income families, regardless of race, are at a greater disadvantage, in the view of the professionals who work with them.

The Kellogg Foundation survey, conducted in April, was set for release last week. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the findings, which Kellogg said is the first known national assessment of health, educational and economic opportunities for minority children by adults who work with them at the community level.

Researchers with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan conducted the poll of 2,028 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia who work as teachers, childcare providers, health care workers, social workers and law enforcement officials.

Whites made up 71 percent of the poll’s respondents, African Americans 12 percent, Hispanics 7 percent, Asian American/Pacific Islanders 3 percent, and other racial or ethnic groups the rest. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Gail Christopher, a Kellogg Foundation vice president, said those in jobs engaging children can more easily see the disparities between whites and minorities and can offer a closer look into the results of racism: communities with unequal systems of income and services.

“So you have major, major pockets of poverty in this country, many of which are tied to race,” Christopher said. “Not all, but many of them are.”

The Kellogg Foundation, started by the breakfast cereal pioneer in 1930, has recently focused its resources on vulnerable children who face poverty and discrimination. The group announced in May a five-year, $75 million initiative aimed at undoing the effects of racial inequalities on children in poor communities.

Matthew Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan, was the director of the study.

It also found: Fifty-five percent of respondents viewed white children ages 0-8 as having good access to high-quality health care, while 41 percent said the same of Hispanic, Arab American and American Indian/Alaska Native children and 45 percent said the same for African American and Asian American/Pacific Islander children.

– Forty-six percent of respondents felt that white teenagers ages 13-18 have ample opportunity to receive high-quality mental health care. The percentages who said that opportunity existed for teens of other races and ethnicities were 31 percent for Hispanics, 32 percent for blacks, 35 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 36 percent for Arab Americans and 37 percent for Asian American/Pacific Islanders.

– Nearly one out of three respondents cited family struggles with money as a bigger barrier to finishing high school for minority teenagers than for whites. Two out of three said the barrier was about the same regardless of race.

– Twenty-five percent said “unfair or inappropriate” treatment by law enforcement presents a larger threat to minority teens than whites when it came to earning a high school degree. The majority, three out of four, said the barrier was about equal for non-whites and whites.